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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Greece, Israel to set up regional force to tackle natural disasters

Greece takes on initiative to organize regional force and has invited Palestinian Authority and other countries in the region such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan to join effort.

Greece and Israel agreed on Wednesday to set up a regional force to deal with natural disasters, after Israel struggled to contain deadly wildfires which killed at least 40 people and forced mass evacuations last month.

"We have agreed to form a group to deal with emergency disasters," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said following talks with his Greek counterpart Dimitris Droutsas.

Greece has taken on the initiative to organize the regional force and has invited the relevant authorities of the Palestinian Authority and other countries in the region such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan to join the effort.

The Palestinian Authority contributed personnel and vehicles to an international force sent to assist Israel in its firefighting efforts in December which killed 42 people.

Both countries also agreed to set up joint committees in the areas of energy, environment and technology.

Lieberman's visit to Athens, the first by an Israeli foreign minister in more than 15 years, comes after a similar visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in August which underscored a dramatic rapprochement with Greece after decades of frosty relations.

The foreign minister's visit comes as diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey remain cool following an Israeli raid on a Gaza- bound aid flotilla in May last year in which nine Turks were killed.